Lose weight by achieving higher ketone levels

Do you want to lose weight? Here’s number 16 of my 18 best tips. All of the published tips can be found on the How to Lose Weight page.

Before we get started, here’s a short recap of the tips so far: The first and most crucial piece of advice was to choose a low-carb diet. The next were eating when hungry, eating real food, eating only when hungry, measuring progress wisely, being persistent, avoiding fruit, beer and artificial sweeteners, review your medications, stressing less and sleeping more, eating less dairy and nut products, stocking up on vitamins and minerals, using intermittent fasting and finally, exercising smart.

This is number sixteen:

16. Achieve higher ketone levels

Warning: Not recommended for type 1 diabetics, see below.


We’ve now arrived at tip number 16. If you’re still having trouble losing weight, despite following the 15 pieces of advice listed above, it might be a good idea to bring out a controversial option: higher ketone levels. Why is it controversial? For most people, “low” or “higher” ketone levels don’t make a difference for health and weight loss, and in general we do not recommend shooting for a specific ketone level. However, for some people stalling at weight plateaus while on a low carb diet, trying to raise ketone levels may be of benefit.

So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy.1 This tends to cause you to want to consume less calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight.2 Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.

Video course

How to Eat LCHF Video Course

Do you know exactly how to eat a low-carb and high fat diet (LCHF)? This is required for ketosis. If not the easiest way is watching this high quality 11-minute video course on how to eat LCHF, and the most important things to think about.

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Ketosis is a state at which the body has an extremely high fat-burning rate. Even the brain indirectly runs on fat, via ketone bodies. These are energy molecules in the blood (like blood sugar) which become fuel for our brains after being converted from fat by the liver.

To encourage ketone production, the amount of insulin in your bloodstream must be low. The lower your insulin, the higher your ketone production. And when you have a well-controlled, sufficiently large amount of ketones in your blood, it’s basically proof that your insulin is very low – and therefore, that you’re enjoying the maximum effect of your low-carbohydrate diet.3

Measuring ketones

Today, there are reasonably-priced gadgets available for measuring ketone levels at home. One needle prick of the finger, and in just a few seconds you’ll know your blood ketone level.

Blood ketones are best measured on a fasted stomach in the morning (before breakfast, that is). Here are a few pointers on how to interpret the result:

  • Below 0.5 mmol/L is not considered “ketosis”. At this level, you’re likely not in your fat-burning zone.4
  • Between 0.5-3.0 mmol/L is nutritional ketosis. This is where you see the beneficial effects on weight and metabolic health. For most people, it won’t matter where in this range you fall
  • Around 1.5 – 3 mmol/L is the upper end of nutritional ketosis. If you have hit a weight loss stall without a clear reason, one possible intervention is to increase your ketone levels. Although there is no scientific support for this intervention, rare cases may see benefit.
  • Values of over 3 mmol/L aren’t necessary. That is, they will achieve neither better nor worse results than being at the 0.5-3 level. Higher values can also sometimes mean that you’re not getting enough food. For type 1 diabetics, it can be caused by a severe lack of insulin, see below.

Ketones in urine

Ketone levels can also be measured in a more old-fashioned way, with urine test sticks (sold prescription-free in pharmacies or on Amazon). Ketone sticks give less reliable results for several reasons, and the above recommendations can’t be straightforwardly applied to them. They are, however, much cheaper.

My personal experience

Feel free to read my accounts of a two-month personal trial:

  1. Experiment: Higher ketone levels for weight loss and increased performance
  2. Four weeks of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring
  3. Final report: Two months of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring

Although I was quite happy with my weight before these trials, they resulted in a further loss of 4.5kgs (10 pounds) and 7cm (3 inches) around my waist – without additional exercise or even the slightest resemblance of hunger.

How to achieve higher ketone levels

Many who firmly believe they are eating a strict low-carb diet are surprised when they measure their blood ketones. They may be at around only 0.2 or 0.4. Why?

The trick here is to avoid all obvious sourced of carbohydrate (sweets, bread, spaghetti, rice, potatoes), consider time restricted eating, and use fat as a lever for taste and satiety.

Sometimes adding MCT oil to your coffee or tea can help increase your ketone levels which may or may not resolve your stall. It may not be “magic” for everyone, but for some it may just do the trick.

If it doesn’t work

Having higher ketone levels for a prolonged period of time (say, a month) will ensure that you experience the maximal hormonal effect from eating a low-carb diet. If this doesn’t result in noticeable weight loss, you can be certain that too many carbs are likely not part of your weight issue and not the obstacle to your weight loss. There are, in fact, other causes of obesity and being overweight. The next three tips in this series might help you.

Also, consider signing up for our Weight loss for good program, free for Diet Doctor members!

Try it

Order a ketone meter online and start measuring. There are a few different models, the most popular one is probably the Precision Xtra ketone meter. Unfortunately these meters are all quite expensive to use, as the test strips can cost about $5 per test.

Here’s a complete package with everything you need to check your blood ketone levels.


Learn much more about ketogenic diets here:

A ketogenic diet for beginners

What is ketosis?

Watch my video interview with Dr. Peter Attia, on a strictly ketogenic low-carbohydrate diet: Very Low Carb Performance

Read all the tips on the How to lose weight page.

Ready to lose the weight for good?

Our new 10-week program helps you lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

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A word of warning

If you have type 1 diabetes, you should not follow the above advice to purposefully increase your ketone levels – it may be risky. If you have ketones in your blood at all, you must be sure that your blood sugar levels are normal. If they are, you’re in normal ketosis – just like the ketosis of healthy people who stick to a strict low carb diet.

High blood sugar levels coupled with high blood ketones, on the other hand, will mean that you have a pathologically low level of insulin – something non-diabetics do not suffer from. This can lead to ketoacidosis – a potentially life-threatening condition. If this happens, you’ll need to inject more insulin; if you’re at all unsure of what to do, contact a medical professional. Coveting really high blood ketones for weight control is not worth the risk for type 1 diabetics.

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  1. Marianne
    I just started my Keto Diet (not even a week in) and I must admit I am really not hungry at all. Of course I have ample stores of fat to fuel my body ;). I probably have around 100 pounds to lose but I am taking in day at a time. Many thanks for all the recipes and great videos on the site I am leaning so much!

    I do have one question though : I have a condition called Hemachromatosis (i.e. too much iron) will all the meat and great green veggies we eat on keto increase my iron? Most real and healthy foods are rich in iron like red meat, broccoli, kale and nuts.


    Replies: #366, #395
  2. Judy F.
    I am on the Keto diet for just over a month now and have lost 20 lbs . My question is about my blood ketones I sit at around 0.3
    How can I raise them my macros are
    18 gr net carbs
    110 Gr fats
    90 gr protein
    I have gone over on my protein a couple of days by a teensy bit ,but not my fats .my carbs I never go over. Any suggestions would be appreciated
    Thanks Judy
    Replies: #353, #371, #399
  3. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Judy!

    Increase your fat intake a little bit (you could try a cup of tea with a tablespoon of coconut fat twice a day) and eat little less carbs...and see if your numbers goes up.

    If this doesn't work then try to increase your fat intake even more and eat even fewer carbs.

    If you after that still have problem then you could try to reduce the protein intake.

    Reply: #374
  4. Lori
    I've been on the keto diet for three months I have a monitor I've been in Keto's for majority of the time I have only lost 2 lb I have lost some inches I have been very frustrated to not see my scale not go down I have had A hysterectomy and Mike gallbladder removed I am 58 years old female is this a factor for not losing my weight ?
  5. Bre
    I have been eating keto for 6 days. 20 or less carbs per day. Around 1700 calories. I tested my urine today and it was 4. I was a bit alarmed as I’m reading this is also known as “starvation ketosis”. Should I be increasing my carbs? I’ve been feeling weak and dizzy.
  6. mira
    Scale has been seesawing up and down by a half pound for almost two weeks. (FYI: This is the same weight as I was when I stopped losing weight on every other diet I tried before Keto.) I have been doing intermittent fasting for a week or so. I am usually at a moderate ketone level, but as soon as I eat a meal or have a fat bomb, my ketone level drops down to small or sometimes trace ketones. Why?
  7. Doreen Edmundson
    Re: constipation, if you are drinking regular tea, that contains a lot of tannic acid, which is VERY constipating!
    Try switching to herbal teas. That should make a big difference!
  8. Drag CA
    My Ketone level is over 5. Mostly 8.
    Is that dangerous state, or I can proceed with my diet?

    I am not diabetic!

    Reply: #402
  9. 1 comment removed
  10. Rachel
    I can’t trust anyone’s advice about what my mitochondrion do or don’t do if they can’t even spell mitochondria. Bro. Really?
  11. Matt
    Your idea of measuring blood ketones as a tool is flawed. Many people are in optimal ketosis at .3-1. It’s not about how many ketones are in your blood as genetics, ketone uptake, fat adaptation etc can result in lower readings. For weight loss it’s about the lipolysis affect, so effectively .0 and 4 are the only readings you need to worry about.
  12. Samantha
    Hi there

    I hope someone can help me.
    I feel at a plateu and I don't Know what to do about it.

    In December 2017 I weighed 185 and started diet doctor January 15th 2 week challenge I lost 8lbs!

    I calculated my macros for my weight to be 108 fat 90 protein 20 carbs. I lost a total of 25lbs. I weighed 160lbs end of April.

    The month of May my weight really fluctuated up and down but I did not lose any more weight. I fluctuate between 160 and 162lbs. I reduced my macros and I'm wondering if this the problem. I got a ketone meter to read my levels and I am 1.3dl which is good but not optimal.

    What can I do?
    I'm not giving up and I'm very happy to lose 25lbs so far and many inches but I don't like this stall/ plateau.

    Please help me!!!

    Reply: #410
  13. Amy
    Hi i am doing the hcg diet. I did it before and lost 60 lbs in 3 12 months
    Now I am doing it again. In not allowed fats period but I use my oil. I'm only allowed 3 ozs.meat a 2twice a day and 1 leafy veggie 2wice a day and 2 apples or strawberries twice a day. I'm never hungry and my question is how do I get my ketosis to go higher. Is the 2 apples stalling me ?
    Replies: #377, #409
  14. parast
    I am eating 900 cal with 20g carbs 49 gr protein and 76 gram fat! this carb is total carb or net carb?
    Replies: #376, #381
  15. Noel
    My diabetes (2) is totally controlled. Dropped to normal first day. Lost 10kg over six months but very little since. Have no gallbladder, could this be a reason.
    Eat 5-10g carbs p/day. Coffee with cream 2-3 pday. Two eggs. Some cheese. Smallish meat or fish plus veg. Raspberries and cream. Sparkling water with lemon. Stevia sweetener.
    Am trying, digestive enzymes, pre/probiotic combo, magnesium, vit d, multi vit,fish oil
    Just bought a ketone monitor 0.1. (This a.m. Glucose 6.2)
    Any suggestions on how to lose more. Weigh 100 kg, height 5'8". Age 73. Aquaerobics twice weekly, a bit sendentary. Kathy (Noel)
  16. Nicole Moore
    Most likely it will increase your iron stores.
  17. Kelly
    I've been Keto for a month. I have kept my carb intake to 20g/day, don't eat too much protein, and haven't cheated. I'm tracking my Ketones via blood test and I'm ranging 1.7-0.6mmol/L, averaging 1.0mmol/L. Why aren't I achieving optimal levels? I only have one reading within the optimal zone. Please help!
    Reply: #373
  18. marianne
    Hi There ! I realllly need help ...

    I am not sure i am measuring well my blood ketone
    I saw on multiple site that in order to properly measure blood ketone you should :
    take your blood sugar and divide it by your blood ketone
    For instance my blood sugar is 4.7
    Blood ketone level is 0.4
    Then i am at 1.88 so in the range

    Am i right or the only level that matters is the only ketone level which is 0.4?

    Thanks a lot it is a bit confusing when you are a beginner

  19. 2 comments removed
  20. Don
    Dr Nally suggests a good place to start with protein for women is 45.5 g for the first 5 ft of height and 2.3g for each inch over 5 ft. It's not the end all be all, because it can be different for everyone, but it's a good starting point. Hope this helps :)
  21. Mary Lou
    Ok I have been checking my bld for 4 days. And checking bw 3-6pm and it has been bw 3.1-4.6 the past 4 days. I am not starving myself. My calculator says 115/65/20 and I may go over on my fats but never under and my protein is within 2 everyday. And carbs I never reach it. Just don’t know what I’m doing wrong.
  22. Mark
    Hi Kelly - Are you drinking the BPC (bulletproof coffee or tea) as a part of your diet? Having the coconut oil (or even better MCT oil) will help produce ketones. If you don’t want to drink that to start your day, adding either of these oils elsewhere will help get your ketones up.
  23. Raegan
    I am having the same problem of sticking at 0.4 fairly consistently. I have lost 24 lbs. but can’t seem to get into any deeper ketosis. I have no clue what I am doing wrong. I started fasting from 8 pm to noon and added bullet proof coffee to my morning routine. Suggestions?
    Reply: #375
  24. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Raegan!

    Well you seems to do things right if you have lost 24 lbs. :-)

    Never forget that we all are individuals that means one person could have 3.0 and another 0.3 with exactly the same food intake.

    If you really would like to see if you can get higher values then you could try to eat only eggs and bullet proof coffee for a few days and see what happens.... and if your values get higher you could successively add different types of food and measure ketones too see if you eat something that lower your values.

    I am having the same problem of sticking at 0.4 fairly consistently. I have lost 24 lbs. but can’t seem to get into any deeper ketosis. I have no clue what I am doing wrong. I started fasting from 8 pm to noon and added bullet proof coffee to my morning routine. Suggestions?

  25. MPA
    It is your net carbs that you need to be calculating
  26. MPA
    It's very possible because apples contain approximately 12g of net carbs per 100g of apple, and you are eating 2 a day, so that's already 24g of carbs right there. Maybe try switching to berries, they contain about 4-5g of carbs per 100g of fruit. I usually rotate between blackberries, raspberries and strawberries to switch it up a little.
  27. Robert B
    Stop eating the fruit. It is very high in Fructose. Eat more vegies instead.
  28. Anna
    Question: for Type 2 diabetics, what's the ideal ketone level? I am assuming that we wouldn't want it to be too high, but I am not sure what is too high or what to do about it if it is too high?
  29. Terra
    Thank for the tips. For type 1 diabetics the key is to make sure you DO have circulating insulin from an injection. Often after being in ketosis for awhile you might even notice you need a bit more insulin to ha e normal level blood sugars. You can be headed toward dangerous ketone levels with normal level blood sugars so I am not sure why the author didn’t point this out. It really doesn’t have to do with blood sugar levels, it has to to with circulating insulin. I have lived with T1D for 27 years and never had ketones with high blood sugars but have had ketones several times when I have lowered my insulin dosing (normal level blood sugars). Just as ketosis has to do with insulin NOT carbs. Dangerous levels of ketosis for a T1D has to do with circulating insulin NOt blood sugar.
  30. sweetladyk
    Net carb. Carbs - fiber - sugar alcohol
  31. Melissa
    I've been following a strict low-carb diet for a while now, eating just two meals a day (lunch and dinner) or occasionally one meal a day (easily done since I have little appetite).
    I recently started to use a cheap breathalyser (it only cost £5 on ebay uk) after I read on a forum that that the cheap ones don't differentiate between alcohol and the acetone produced in your breath when you're in ketosis.
    It definitely works since I haven't drunk alcohol in over 20 years but whenever I use it, it flashes 'Danger' and usually reads between 0.5 and 1.0 g/L (0.05 to 0.1%BAC).
    I've tested it on the rest of my family, who eat just a moderately low carb diet, and they all read zero on this device.
    I highly recommend using one of these breathalyser as a cheap, easy and non-evasive way to check if you're in ketosis. Just make sure it's one of the cheap ones since the better ones work 'properly' and don't measure acetone from ketosis.

    I just have one question, does anyone know what range of breathalyser readings in either g/L or %BAC would correspond to 'optimal ketosis' as described in this article?

  32. 2 comments removed
  33. Jeff Glainyk
    Ok I’m using the true plus ketone strips should I be in the lighter are which is negative or on the dark side? I’m down 13 lbs so no complaints here, just want to know if I’m on the right path!
  34. Sue Wildey
    I've been on a low carb diet for one month and lost 17lbs. I've just tested for ketones and it's sort of between 4 and 8. I don't eat much fat or dairy, just 1oz of cheese daily. Main foods are meat, fish, eggs, green veggies and mixed salad, lemon juice for the dressing. I drink some alcohol in the evenings with sparkling water. I have felt a bit week and shaky at times but not a lot and can overcome this when excercising. Is my result of 4-8 too much? I'm not diabetic.
  35. Shari Reeves
    I started my keto journey on February 23rd and I have lost 91 lbs. My GKI is 1.2 so I am a high fat burner. My question is why am I not losing weight? I am curious what is going on in my body when the numbers say one thing but my weight has plateaued. I have 70-90 lbs left to lose.
  36. Bonnie Lawrence
    I’m frustrated, I’m actually gaining weight and I’ve been doing it for three weeks, using fat Bomb’s, bullet proof coffeee, lowering, my protein and eating well under 40 grams carbohydrate. What the heck???
    Reply: #389
  37. Andrea
    I'm having the same problem. I started two weeks ago and haven't lost any weight or inches. My ketones are consistently at 2-3.5. I think I will give it a couple more weeks but I'm afraid I'm going to gain weight instead of losing it. Also, my fiance is eating the exact same foods I am and is getting ketones no higher than 1.5. I just don't get it.
  38. Shasta
    I am also having this problem. I did get a Keto blood monitor today so am going to start checking my levels to see if I can figure it out. When is the best time to test? Before I eat or drink anything?
  39. Tanya
    Just want to say THANK YOU to Terra who commented on July 24 about type 1 diabetes, ketoacidosis, and circulating insulin levels. I am T1D and have been struggling with euglycemic DKA (that baffle my docs or they don't pick up or they attribute to stupid things). It happens to me in the first half of my menstrual cycle when I have to drop my dose a lot due to insulin sensitivity. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
  40. Cindi
    I have been on this for over 7 wks. I use the urine strips and they are always dark. I don't now what I am doing wrong. i have only lost 7 pounds. Can stress slow weight loss I use cmt oil everyday. I watch my net carbs and protein. I eat only 2 meals a day due to fasting mode.
    Reply: #393
  41. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    Yes, stress can raise cortisol which can hinder weight loss. If you are not seeing progress, you may want to limit your net carbs to 20 per day, if you have been eating a more liberal low carb diet. Also, a dark result on the strips can indicate dehydration; make sure you are staying well hydrated.


  42. Robert
    I don't understand how I go into ketosis so fast, if there's a medical reason for it
    My carbs 137g
    My calories 1,682.6
    My fat 83.1g
    M protien is 97.4g
    I also drink 13 x 8 oz glasses water a day
    I am at 1.5 mmo/L on the ketone color chart on the bottle
    I lost 7 lbs the first week and 3 lbs the 2nd week
    I was 238 lbs when I started
    Now at 228 lbs
    I am a 54 year old male, My fasting glucose was 12.4 mmo/L when I started, it was 4.7 mmo/L this morning
    I just don't understand how I go into ketosis so fast, when every bit of literature or comments I see reads between 25g to 30g carbs? I'm between 112g and 107g of carbs higher?
    I started at 85g carbs and was at 16 mmo/L ketones the highest reading on the bottle after 3 days when I started, and had to increase my carbs to 137g to lower it to 1.5 mmo/L?
    I eat 3 pieces on fruit a day a orange apple banana and 2 pieces of whole grain bread with 2 tbsp peanut butter on each s well as vegetables, eggs and chicken
    Do other people experience this
    My doctor was no help, because he doesn't agree with this diet?
    Thank you for your comments
  43. Jane
    Hi Marianne

    I’m just curious if you had any replies - like you I have haemachromatisis and I’m a couple of months into this diet - have about 50lbs to shift!!

  44. Victoria
    I completed a 48 hour fast on Saturday and my ketones were at 2.6, which is how they pretty much were for the week (I use a blood monitor). On Sunday after some cream cheese pancakes and bacon and a 4 mile hike, they rose to 4. I am now 24 hours into a 42 hour fast and my ketones read 5. I am neither diabetic or prediabetic. Are my ketones just super jazzed from the fasting?
  45. Chainrai
    I am. 4 weeks into the diet and have only lost about 2 lbs.. I have been doing a lot of reading about the interaction between glucose and Ketosis. My Glucose averages about 106 first thing in the morning and my ketones measured with a blood meter are at .4 . Can’t seem to get into the optimal zone. Is it because my glucose is so high. Everything i am reading is telling me i may be eating to much protien, and that glucogenisis is converting it to glucose in my body, keeping me from hoist that optimal zone.. any help would be appreciated..
    Reply: #398
  46. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    Yes, that may be the case. Some people are more sensitive to extra protein than others. Here is our post with troubleshooting tips that may help you pinpoint other areas of concern.
  47. Jason Ellis
    Sometimes foods that say they have a certain amount of net carbs are misleading due to the types of artificial sweeteners in them. Atkins bars, for example, are a great way to kick yourself out of ketosis. I would stick with foods with no active ingredients until you are keto adapted after a couple weeks. Eggs, cheese, butter, nuts (with moderation), meats, etc. Then you can toss some low carb cheats in there. I had a baked salmon roll with no rice last night. MMOL only changed from 2.6 to 2.4

    I am on the Keto diet for just over a month now and have lost 20 lbs . My question is about my blood ketones I sit at around 0.3
    How can I raise them my macros are
    18 gr net carbs
    110 Gr fats
    90 gr protein
    I have gone over on my protein a couple of days by a teensy bit ,but not my fats .my carbs I never go over. Any suggestions would be appreciated
    Thanks Judy

    I am on the Keto diet for just over a month now and have lost 20 lbs . My question is about my blood ketones I sit at around 0.3
    How can I raise them my macros are
    18 gr net carbs
    110 Gr fats
    90 gr protein
    I have gone over on my protein a couple of days by a teensy bit ,but not my fats .my carbs I never go over. Any suggestions would be appreciated
    Thanks Judy

  48. Parker
    Good afternoon i have been following the low carb eating plan for 3 weeks now.
    I do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week
    and 30 minutes of strength training 3 x a week

    I eat two meals a day Lunch and dinner my appetite has reduced significantly. I have been including sucralose sweeteners in my diet but have since been reducing it significantly. I plan to wean myself off them.

    i drink approx 1.5 liters of water per day and have MCT oil in my coffee and as a salad dressing.

    I have not lost any weight or centimeters . I am struggling with insomnia and i am terribly frustrated with the lack of progress my ketone reading hovers between 0.4 and 0.5 even after exercising on an empty stomach ! i am truly disappointed.
    I do a 12 hour fast daily stil nothing .
    Please help

    Reply: #403
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